Sunday, May 28, 2017

Video Music - Miley Cyrus - Malibu

’When N. Korea feels threatened, they show military power' – US ex-diplomat on new missile launch

Trump in Brussels - 'The Germans Are Bad, Very Bad'


At a meeting with European Union leaders on Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump was sharply critical of Germany. DER SPIEGEL spoke with meeting participants.

U.S. President Donald Trump voiced significant displeasure over Germany's trade surplus on Thursday during a meeting with European Union leaders in Brussels. "The Germans are bad, very bad," Trump said, according to meeting participants.
The participants told DER SPIEGEL that Trump went on to say: "See the millions of cars they are selling to the U.S. Terrible. We will stop this."

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker showed solidarity with the Germans at the meeting and contradicted Trump's rebuke. Free trade benefits everybody, Juncker said. Participants at the meeting who spoke with DER SPIEGEL said that Juncker tried to maintain a collegial tone, but remained uncompromising on that point.

During the roughly one-hour meeting, Trump met initially with European Council President Donald Tusk and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. After about 45 minutes, they were joined by others, including European Parliament President Antonio Tajani and the EU's chief diplomat, Federica Mogherini.

According to a report in the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, many EU officials were appalled by how little the Americans appeared to know about trade policy. The guests from Washington seemed not to be aware that EU member states only negotiate trade treaties as a bloc. According to the paper, Trump's chief economic advisor, Gary Cohn, claimed during meetings, for example, that different customs tariffs are in place between the U.S. and Germany than between the U.S. and Belgium.
'Not Gonna Happen'
For years, Germany has exported more than it imports and Trump has criticized the country's trade surplus before - in an interview with the German tabloid Bild prior to his inauguration, for example. In that interview, too, he voiced particular frustration at the number of German cars he sees on the streets of New York. "I would tell BMW if they think they're gonna build a plant in Mexico and sell cars into the U.S. without a 35 percent tax, it's not gonna happen. It's not gonna happen." It was a clear threat to slap punitive tariffs on German automobiles.

The new U.S. president finds Germany's surpluses unfair because they necessarily mean that its trading partners have a trade deficit, the U.S. in this case. But the German government has also been criticized within the EU for its trade surplus. In a recent interview with SPIEGEL, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble also said that the surplus was too large.
Still, after numerous meetings between European leaders and Trump along with several attempts to explain international trade policy, the EU thought that progress had been made. As Trump made clear on Thursday, however, that hope was in vain.

‘Many intl problems can’t be resolved without Russia’ – French President Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron acknowledged the importance of dialogue with Russia in resolving certain international problems during the G7 summit in Italy. The statement comes ahead of his meeting with Vladimir Putin in Paris on Monday.
“Many international problems cannot be resolved without Russia,” Macron said, as cited by TASS. He stressed the necessity of talking to Moscow at a news conference after the two-day meeting of G7 leaders in Sicily, which wrapped up on Saturday.
The French leader noted that he will seek a “demanding dialogue” with Russia, but “that still means having dialogue.”
Elaborating on the particular issues that demand Russian participation, he emphasized the situations in Syria and Ukraine – among the topics to be discussed during his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Paris.
“I am going to discuss the situation in Syria during the meeting in Versailles,” he said, adding that the crisis can be resolved through a comprehensive political approach.
The French president said that a Normandy format meeting, including Russia, Ukraine, Germany, and France, should be held in the nearest future to discuss the Ukrainian conflict as well.
Macron said that “it is necessary to go forward with the implementation of the Minsk agreements,” which outline a roadmap for peace for eastern Ukraine.
According to Macron, the sanctions against Russia imposed over the Ukraine crisis and Moscow’s alleged meddling in it must remain in place until the situation is resolved.
The sanctions on Russia – which has repeatedly denied being a party to the conflict, while stressing its commitment to the Minsk agreement – were touched upon during this year’s G7 summit.
While acknowledging the need to keep the sanctions in place and even possibly expanding them, the international leaders also stressed the importance of further cooperation with Moscow over international issues such as terrorism.
The Russian president will arrive in Paris at the invitation of his French counterpart on May 29 to discuss a wide range of issues, including international affairs and bilateral relations.
This will be the first time Putin has met Macron after being elected as the French president on May 7, defeating Marine Le Pen in the second round of the election.

Merkel: Europe can no longer rely on US and Britain

The German chancellor's comments came after contentious meetings with US President Donald Trump at NATO and G7 summit meetings. Trump clashed with America's allies over global warming, mutual defense and trade.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday that Europe has to forge its own path forward, as the United States and Britain were no longer reliable partners.
"The times when we could fully rely on others have passed us by a little bit, that's what I've experienced in recent days," she said while speaking at a campaign rally in Munich.
Her reference was to the contentious G7 Summit meeting in Sicily, which ended Saturday with the world's democratic powers divided. Most notably they were split "six against one," as Merkel described it Saturday, on the man-made threat posed by global warming.
Even though Britain agreed with its European allies on the need to combat climate change, its decision to leave the European Union means it, too, will be going its own way on a range of issues.
US President Donald Trump, who campaigned as a global-warming denier - calling it a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese - refused to go along with his six counterparts in reaffirming their support for the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit the rise in global temperatures.
"For that reason," Merkel continued, "I can only say: We Europeans really have to take our fates in our own hands."
Of course, that must be done in a spirit of friendship with the United States and Britain, she said, "But we have to wage our own fight for our future, as Europeans, for our fate."
Franco-German ties
Towards that end, she said special emphasis was needed on warm relations between Germany and newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron.
But global warming wasn't the only issue where Trump found himself at odds with his European counterparts.
Prior to the G7 summit he was in Brussels for a meeting with heads of state from the 28-member NATO alliance. Trump conspicuously refused to publicly endorse Article Five of the NATO charter, which guarantees that member countries will aid the others if they are attacked.
The omission was particularly striking given that Trump unveiled a memorial to the victims of September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the US, the only time NATO's mutual defense clause has been triggered.
Trump also criticized Germany while in Brussels, calling its trade practices "bad, very bad" and complained that too many German cars are being sold in the US.
Sunday's event saw Merkel renew ties with the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to her own center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), ahead of a parliamentary vote in September.
Polls show the chancellor, who has been in power since 2005, likely to be re-elected for a fourth term.

Unhappy neighbors - Afghanistan, India, Iran wary of Pakistan's 'jihadist support'

Iran has warned it would target militant hideouts inside Pakistan if Islamabad doesn't act against Sunni jihadists. Pakistan's other two neighbors - Afghanistan and India - also accuse Islamabad of backing terrorists.

Keeping aside diplomatic niceties, Iran has reacted in the strictest possible manner against Sunni militants' activities along its southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan, bordering Pakistan.
Jaish al Adl (the Army of Justice), a Sunni militant group based in Pakistan, killed at least ten Iranian border guards last month. The guards were shot with long-range guns, fired from inside Pakistan.
Jaish al Adl has previously claimed responsibility for attacks that killed Iranian troops in 2013 and 2015. The anti-Iran and anti-Shiite militant group is fighting against what it says is discrimination against Sunni Muslims in Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan province. Sunni militant groups consider Shiites as apostates.
Karte Iran mit der Provinz Sistan und Baluchestan
Iran has reacted angrily against Sunni militants' activities along its southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan
On Monday, May 8, Iran's army chief said Pakistan must confront Sunni militants or his country would hit their bases itself.
"We cannot accept the continuation of this situation," Major General Mohammad Baqeri, the head of the Iranian armed forces, was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.
"We expect the Pakistani officials to control the borders, arrest the terrorists and shut down their bases," Baqeri added.
"If the terrorist attacks continue, we will hit their safe havens and cells, wherever they are," he said.
Last week, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Islamabad and asked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to improve border security. Islamabad promised to deploy additional troops along the Pakistani-Iranian frontier.
Pakistan's regional isolation
Iranian-Pakistani relations have been tense for quite some time, but lately there has been a sharp rise in hostility between the two neighboring countries. Experts say that Islamabad's alleged support to Sunni militant groups, most of which operate freely inside Pakistan, is one of the reasons behind the deteriorating ties.
Shia-majority Iran is not the only country in the region that is unhappy with Islamabad's handling of Sunni militants; Afghanistan and India have long accused Pakistan's leadership of backing terrorist organizations which, they claim, are used by the nation's military establishment to create unrest on their soil and gain geopolitical leverage.
There have been severe clashes between Afghan and Pakistani troops along the Afghan-Pakistani border, and the situation is not very different on the so-called Line of Control, the Indian-Pakistani border along the volatile Kashmir region 
But, for Iran, the main concern regarding Pakistan is Islamabad's renewed defense alliance with its arch-rival Saudi Arabia.
Despite the parliament's decision last year against becoming a party to the intensifying Saudi-Iranian conflict in the Middle East, particularly in Yemen, Islamabad last month approved the appointment of Raheel Sharif, the country's former army chief, as head of the 39-member Saudi-led military coalition. Riyadh says the Muslim nations' alliance was formed to fight terrorism in the region, but experts point out that it is primarily an anti-Iran grouping. Naturally, Tehran is not part of the coalition.
Sattar Khan, DW's correspondent, reports from Islamabad that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government has undertaken a diplomatic initiative to allay Tehran's concerns following Raheel Sharif's controversial appointment. But the efforts are unlikely to yield results, says Khan.
"Saudi Arabia and Iran do not trust each other. Also, Riyadh does not want Islamabad to be neutral in the conflict; it wants its full support. In this scenario, how can Pakistan's diplomatic drive be successful?" Aman Memon, a former professor at the Allama Iqbal Open University in Islamabad, told DW.
Dependence on Saudi Arabia
In 2015, Riyadh formally requested Pakistan to provide combat planes, warships and soldiers to support the Arab coalition in fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. But the South Asian country's lawmakers voted to remain neutral in the conflict, albeit PM Sharif later clarified in a televised speech that in the case of an aggression against Saudi Arabia, Pakistan would take Riyadh's side.
Saudi Arabia, which is one of Pakistan's biggest financers, was unhappy with Islamabad's reluctance to join the coalition against Yemen's Shiite rebels. The Arab kingdom has been involved in a two-year-long campaign of airstrikes against Houthi rebels, who have taken over swathes of territory in Saudi Arabia's southern neighborhood, raising concerns in Riyadh about a potential Shiite uprising in the kingdom. Saudi Arabia also fears that Iran is working to increase its influence in the region.
Experts say that Pakistan's economic dependence on the Arabian country is also a reason behind its support for Riyadh and Raheel Sharif's appointment. They claim that Pakistan already has troops in Saudi Arabia in an assisting role. But with Sharif taking charge of the alliance, the troops could be directly involved in the battle.
The Arab countries' coalition also has the backing of the United States. In the past few years, Islamabad has drifted away considerably from Washington but analysts say that both countries still have many common strategic interests in the region. Also, the Pakistani military heavily depends on US financial assistance.
"Recently, a US official visited Saudi Arabia and expressed his country's support to the Saudi alliance. He also lampooned Iran. So the objectives of this grouping are pretty clear," Sabir Karbalai, an Islamabad-based analyst, told DW.
The expert, however, added that Islamabad should have remained neutral in the Saudi-Iranian power struggle.
Deteriorating ties
Islamabad's over-enthusiasm to appease Riyadh could further exacerbate its relations with Tehran.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited Pakistan in March last year in an attempt to convince Pakistani authorities to remain neutral in the Middle Eastern conflicts. Iran is aware of the concerns and limitations of its ties with Pakistan, but analysts say it still wants to maintain "normal" relations with Islamabad.
Farhan Hanif Siddiqui, an International Relations expert at the Quaid-i-Azam University, believes that Pakistan needs to assure Iran that the Saudi alliance is not against any country.
"It is vital for Pakistan to convince Iran that the Saudi-led alliance is only against al Qaeda and the so-called "Islamic State." If Tehran continues to believe that the Saudi coalition is targeting the regimes in Iraq and Syria, Pakistan's diplomatic efforts will be in vain," Siddiqui told DW.
Sectarian strife
The South Asian country's intelligentsia and civil society have voiced their displeasure and concern over Raheel Sharif's role in the Saudi alliance and Islamabad's direct involvement in the conflict.
Pakistan's support to Saudi Arabia is likely to increase the Sunni-Shiite tension in the South Asian country. Analysts believe that the Sunni militant groups will feel further emboldened by the fact that the ex-army chief now heads the Saudi-led alliance.
The sectarian strife in Pakistan has been ongoing for some time now, with militant Islamist groups unleashing terror on the minority Shiite groups in many parts of the country. Most of these outfits, including the Taliban, take inspiration from the hard-line Saudi-Wahabi Islamic ideology.
"For Pakistan's Islamic fundamentalists, the country is already a 'Sunni Wall' against Shiite Iran," Siegfried O. Wolf, director of research at the Brussels-based South Asia Democratic Forum (SADF), told DW in an interview.
"The policy of containing the Shiite influence in the region was seriously affected after the collapse of the Sunni Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001 and the subsequent overthrow of Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq. These events created a power vacuum which is now being increasingly filled by Tehran. Saudi Arabia does not want to see the rise of Iran and will continue to do anything to ensure Sunni dominance," he underlined.

Pakistani military feeling the Trump pressure

By Shamil Shams

The Trump administration has slashed its foreign military assistance to Pakistan and is contemplating converting it into a loan in its budget. Does it imply the US no longer needs Pakistan's counterterrorism support?
A significant reduction to the military aid will see Pakistan receiving $100 million for the 2018 fiscal year, but the White House has left it to the State Department to decide whether it should be given in the form of a grant or a loan. The current 2017 fiscal would end on September 30.
Last year, the US assistance to Pakistan under the State Department budget was $534 million, which included $225 million in foreign military funding.
"The Foreign Military Funding (FMF) for Pakistan would be provided in the form of a loan guarantee," said Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management of Budget in the White House.
Mulvaney added that in its maiden budget, President Donald Trump's administration proposed to convert its FMF program to many countries from aid to financial loan. Pakistan is one of them. "Whether the funding is provided through grants, or as a subsidy for a guaranteed loan, is an option the State Department can exercise to ensure our foreign assistance best supports our national interests," the White House said.

In addition to State Department's financial assistance, Islamabad also receives reimbursement from the US for its expenses toward US' Afghanistan operations.
Despite these cutbacks, Pakistan continues to be the second-largest recipient of US aid in South Asia, next only to Afghanistan. But it is evident that Trump's administration is changing its terms of engagement with Islamabad - a crucial departure from former President Barack Obama's policies toward the Islamic country.
At the heart of the problem is Washington's dissatisfaction with Islamabad's counterterrorism efforts in the region, or the lack of it. US officials accuse Pakistan's military establishment of providing logistical and military support to militant groups like the Taliban to destabilize Afghanistan and increase their clout in the war-torn country. Pakistan denies these allegations.
"Pakistan views Afghanistan or desires for Afghanistan some of the same things we want: a safe, secure, stable Afghanistan. One addition, one that does not have heavy Indian influence in Afghanistan," Lt Gen Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during a recent congressional hearing.
"They (Pakistan) hold in reserve terrorist organizations so that if Afghanistan leans towards India, they will no longer be supportive of an idea of a stable and secure Afghanistan that could undermine Pakistan interest," Stewart underlined.
US-Pakistani ties have deteriorated considerably in the past few years, with Pakistan drifting closer to its longtime ally China. Aijaz Awan, a Pakistani defense analyst and former military official, told DW the financial reductions would force Pakistan to find new allies, such as Russia.
"The options are open for Pakistan. Russia wants to support the Taliban to keep 'Islamic State' (IS) at bay. Moscow is also looking to minimize US influence in southern Asia. It works for Pakistan," Awan said.
"The US is failing in Afghanistan. Now it wants to put all blame on Pakistan for this failure," the former military official added.
Changing priorities
Experts say that US-Pakistani relations are unlikely to improve in the foreseeable future. President Trump's speech during his recent Saudi Arabia visit made it clear that Pakistan is seen more as a problem than a solution regarding US interests in South Asia. Not only Trump didn't mention Pakistan as a "frontline state" in the war against terror, he supported India's narrative about Islamic terrorism in the region.
"The US doesn't need Pakistan's help in Afghanistan anymore. In the past, it needed us to topple the Taliban regime in Afghanistan; later it wanted Islamabad to eliminate the extremist group. But Pakistan continued with its 'double game' (providing support to the Taliban while receiving US aid)," analyst Khalid Javed Jan told DW.
"This has forced the US to provide more financial assistance to the Afghan National Army. Washington, at the same time, allowed India to exercise more influence in Afghanistan. So the US doesn't require our support to a great extent," Jan added.
Pakistan's isolation
Pakistan continues to rely on China's backing, but experts say the South Asian country's foreign policy appears to be in disarray. Civil society groups blame the Pakistani military for the crisis, arguing that the army generals, which many believe have the final say on security and foreign policy matters, are pursuing a belligerent policy toward the country's neighbors.
Pakistan is currently engaged in border clashes with three of its four neighbors - Afghanistan, India and Iran. There has been a sharp rise in hostility between Iran and Pakistan with Tehran threatening to attack militant hideouts inside Pakistan.
Shia-majority Iran is not the only country in the region that is unhappy with Islamabad's handling of Sunni militants; Afghanistan and India have long accused Pakistan's leadership of backing terrorist organizations which, they claim, are used by the nation's military establishment to create unrest on their soil and gain geopolitical leverage.
There have been severe clashes between Afghan and Pakistani troops along the Afghan-Pakistani border, and the situation is not very different on the so-called Line of Control, the de facto Indian-Pakistani border along the volatile Kashmir region.
In this scenario, security analysts warn against pinning all hopes on Beijing. With US curtailing its support to the Pakistani military, and the recent snub that Pakistan received during a Muslim nations' conference in Saudi Arabia, there are signs that pressure is mounting on Islamabad. Maybe it's time for the country's policies to change.

Pak-Afghan - د لارو تړل افغانستان او پاکستان دواړو ته تاواني دي

UNHCR and Thai government responsible for death of Pakistani Asylum seeker in Bangkok IDC

Dr. Nazir S Bhatti, President of Pakistan Christian Congress PCC and Editor of Pakistan Christian Post said in a statement here today that Pakistani Christians have grave concerns of death of Ijaz Tariq in Immigration Detention Centre IDC of Bangkok without any medical support.

Dr. Nazir Bhatti said “death of Pakistani Christian Asylum seeker in IDC Bangkok without any medical assistance is violation of human rights for which UNHRC Bangkok office and Thailand government are equally responsible”

Ijaz Tariq was arrested on immigration laws violations of Thai government like hundreds of other Pakistani Christian Asylum seekers who are duly registered with UNHCR and not provided with right of bail.

The right of bail on minor immigration laws is duly under international laws but Thai government have been continuously denying it to Pakistani Christian asylum seekers from last three years due to which hundreds of children, women and elderly are locked up.

The role of UNHCR Bangkok is also substandard and contrary to UN Refugee convention when it fails to provide legal assistance to asylum seekers detained by Thai Administration nor provides medical assistance to sick children, women and men who fled from Pakistan on persecution.

The UNHCR Bangkok office have hired Muslim translators who wrongly interpret Pakistani Christian Asylum seekers during interviews which end in failure to present true stories and evidence of asylum seekers.

Ijaz Tariq case was also denied on May 26, 2017, by UNHCR Bangkok office due to misinterpretation of Sunni Muslim Pakistani translators hired by UNHCR when he was in IDC Bangkok like hundreds of other cases.

Dr. Nazir Bhatti said “UNHCR have hired Muslim translators who are employees of ISI and IB of Pakistan government and to perform duty to make interviews of Pakistani Christian Asylum seekers unsuccessful and UNHCR Bangkok have knowledge of it”

“PCC warns Caritas Pakistan on supporting government of Pakistan to give incentive of ticket payment and rehabilitation in Pakistan to Pakistani Christian Asylum seekers in Thailand because Caritas International not carry such conspiracies against human being to support any government” added Nazir Bhatti

PCC Chief said that I am writing to UNHCR Geneva office on substandard policies of UNHCR Bangkok office towards Pakistani Christian Asylum seekers on hiring Muslim agents of Pakistan government as translators and not providing medical assistance to Christians registered with its office.

Nazir Bhatti said, “I am sending memorandum to Human Right Commission of UN in Geneva about violation of human rights by Thailand government on arrest of Pakistani Christian Asylum seekers and not providing medical assistance to detainees in IDC Bangkok”

Nazir Bhatti urged Thailand government to provide opportunity of bails to Pakistani Christian Asylum seekers immediately to secure human rights of detained on minor immigration charges.

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Why the Trump-led Islamic Summit in Saudi Arabia was a disaster for Pakistan

The Donald Trump-led Arab Islamic American summit, held in Riyadh this weekend, was supposed to be Pakistan’s moment to cash its first check on the diplomatic investment it has made in the Saudi-led Islamic military coalition – which former Army Chief Raheel Sharif militarily heads. After all, the long standing U.S.-Saudi relationship has helped Islamabad ally itself with both, and at a time when the duo was spearheading an “Islamic” summit it was natural for Pakistan to expect a share of the spotlight.
With this in mind, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif spent the entire duration of his flight to Riyadh rehearsing his address to the summit, which included leaders of 55 Muslim-majority states. It was time to drive home Islamabad’s perspective on countering Islamist terrorism – the theme of the event – considering Pakistan’s unique role as both victim and counterterrorism proponent. Raheel Sharif heads the counterterror militia, and the country is fourth on the Global Terrorism Index in terms of the most affected states.
Yet Nawaz Sharif wasn’t invited to address the summit. Neither was Raheel Sharif.
It was bad enough that Pakistan didn’t get a say in what was predictably reduced to a Gulf gathering, rather than an “Islamic” summit. Trump’s speech itself further added salt to the wounds.
Not only did the U.S. president identify India as a victim of terror, he failed to acknowledge Pakistan as one. This at a time when the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has stayed the execution of Kulbhushan Jadhav – an alleged Indian spy convicted of terrorism in Pakistan – and when deeming Kashmiri separatist militancy synonymous with “Pakistan-sponsored terrorism” is the official New Delhi stance.
It very well might not have been his intention, but by singling out India alone as a victim of terror among the South Asian states, Trump upheld New Delhi’s narrative on Kashmir, and completely shelved Pakistan’s claims of “India-sponsored terrorism,” specifically in the volatile province of Balochistan.
This would’ve been a setback at most gatherings, but for the U.S.-Saudi leadership to silence Pakistan’s narrative at an “Islamic” summit was particularly damaging, considering that Islamabad has long held Islam as a foreign policy tool and has based its support for the Kashmiri struggle on religious affiliation as well.
Trump also snubbed a request for a meeting with Nawaz Sharif, whom he only met with on the sidelines of the summit, while having well publicized talks with many other leaders.
As the U.S. president joined Saudi King Salman in being high on anti-Iran rhetoric, asking the Muslim world to isolate the nation that Trump said had “fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror,” Pakistan’s repeated claim of the Saudi-led coalition not targeting a particular sect or state was significantly dented as well.
In jumping aboard, and militarily spearheading, the Saudi-led military alliance, Islamabad has alienated Tehran to a point that Iran is now openly threatening attacks inside Pakistan to uproot what it calls are “safe havens for Sunni jihadists.”
With its decades-old racist foreign policy vis-à-vis Afghanistan backfiring, ties with India continuing to plunge, and now Iran earmarking it as an integral part of the Saudi camp, Islamabad is surrounded by a hostile neighborhood that is finding common ground in uniting against militancy originating in Pakistan.
And as Pakistan’s immediate neighbors accuse it of supporting terrorism, the snub for Pakistan at a counterterror conference, hosted by the country that Islamabad is going out of its way to protect against the much-touted “Shia crescent,” means that there are no buyers for Pakistan’s narrative on its role against terrorism.
Despite Saudis talking up Pakistan as a “leader of Muslim Ummah” whenever they need military support, Riyadh has never backed Islamabad’s stance on Kashmir, or even condemned Kabul for what Pakistan portrays as Indian voodoo forcing Afghanistan to act out against a “Muslim brother.” In fact Saudi Arabia has multiple defense agreements with India – the country Islamabad claims is responsible for funding terrorism in Pakistan.
While Washington sidelining Islamabad following Trump’s election was long coming, it is the continued lack of Saudi support at the international level that has reduced Pakistan’s status for the Kingdom of al-Saud to that of a security guard, without any contribution in narratives.
If Islamabad still needs a reason to abandon Islam as a foreign policy determinant, it only needs to look at its relations with its “Muslim brothers” in the neighborhood, and the consistent Saudi refusal to even allow Pakistan a say in the global Muslim narrative.
This is especially true when China, the only state that is backing Islamabad and giving it an economic lifeline, has staunch anti-Muslim policies in the region that is going to help Pakistan sustain itself.

Pakistan - The farmers’ story

Beyond the headlines, no one really knows why farmers were protesting the day the country’s annual budget was announced. During the budget speech, both the opposition and the government made a show of being on the side of the country’s farmers. But there they were – our farmers: outside parliament, being beaten up and arrested but insisting that they would not go until their demands were met. They eventually left after a fierce police crackdown and were soon forgotten as the budget speech laid out the government’s plans for next year. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar laid out what seemed like a grand vision for the agricultural sector. Taxes on agricultural machinery are to be reduced, tax holidays to be offered on agricultural chains, fertilizer subsides to remain in place, agricultural electricity tariffs to also remain subsidised and Rs700 billion in small agricultural loans to be provided. With the agricultural sector showing almost 3.5 percent growth last year, Dar’s story suggests that farmers have nothing to complain about.
The protesting farmers told a different story – a story of how each budget finds a way to make headlines, but is unable to address the challenges faced by the very constituencies it wishes to address. The farmers’ protest was not a sideshow; it was the actual story. But it is a story no one seems to have the ability to decode. Does anyone truly understand why our farmers are angry? Most media coverage, despite a decade of farmers’ protests, remains opaque. It fails to mention key demand and when it does, very few venture into ‘Pakistan’s agricultural backbone’ to see what is going on. Access to water, shrinking landholding sizes and the encroachment of housing schemes are issues that find no mention in the budget – or the much-touted Kissan Package of 2015. Issues of market-access continue to be seen as a debate on whether to import or export a particular agricultural product while issues in the domestic farmer-to-market chain are not thought worth talking about. Farmers themselves have called for support prices for a number of key produce as well as an end to cheap agricultural imports from India. Both demands speak to different challenges but have a basic logic: the cost of producing crops in Pakistan remains higher than the rest of our region. This is not to suggest that India is an ideal example. Pakistan has not seen the type of farmers’ suicides our neighbour is plagued with, but we may not be far from such a time. The crisis in agriculture is compounded by a crisis in policymaking.          The challenge of policymaking, however, is not to just accept the demands of a particular economic group, but to anticipate challenges that the group is unable to see. The problem is that no one in the government or the opposition seems to want to truly understand why farmers in Pakistan are protesting.

Pakistan - Decline In Literacy

Students Are Deprived Of The Basic Facilities In The Govt. School |n Pakistan

In the last couple of years, one sector of Pakistan that has gravely suffered is education.
Successive governments have failed to prioritise the need to educate the citizens, and allot a significant amount of the federal budget towards its improvement.
The education budget for the year 2013-14 was a little over 2 percent, 537.6 billion to be precise.
According to Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey (PSLM), the literacy rate which was previously 60 percent has gone down to 58 percent.
We are already lagging way behind on our Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of reaching 88 percent in 2015. Intake in primary schools has decreased. Four out of every child is not going to school in the country.
This means that no significant policy making is being done with regards to the education system. This is especially true for the governments of Sindh and Balochistan. Both the provinces witnessed a decrease in their literacy rates.
While terrorism, floods, lack of interest of parents, and non-availability of teachers is to be blamed; it is also the duty of the provincial government to ensure that education is promoted in the province.
Basic facilities such as education are key towards the progress of the country; and if they are not prioritised, no developmental project will be able to push the country out of its shambles.
The budget for the current fiscal year again only allotted 2. 3 percent to the education sector.
If this remains the case, we would have to start setting realistic MDGs.

Pakistan Curbs Social Media - Mind your hashtags

The crackdown against social media users is further blighting Pakistan’s freedom of expression. The Counter Terrorism Department for the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is muscling down on social media users, especially those critiquing the powerful military when, on the other hand, hundreds of web pages spreading extremism are allowed to flourish.
The official crackdown was conducted on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s orders, said Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in a press conference last week. He also confusingly said, “there is no restriction on social media but there will be lines drawn and social media will be monitored”.
However, all it has achieved so far is unrest among political activists who regularly use social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. It has also invited outrage from rights’ activists, citing the onslaught as a restriction on freedom of expression.
Last week the FIA, the country’s top authority that counters cyber-crimes, questioned more than four dozen social media users for allegedly criticising the military and judiciary. Many of them are still in the custody of investigators.
The context is that at the start of this year, about half a dozen bloggers and activists mysteriously disappeared within 24 hours. Weeks later, all of them returned home but there is still no clarity about who picked them up, why and what happened under captivity.
Many critics pointed fingers at the Inter-Services Intelligence, the military’s spy agency; meanwhile pro-army media houses reported that the disappeared activists and bloggers were accused of spreading blasphemous content online. The bloggers later denied the accusations and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan also exonerated them.
The political situation in the country grew more complicated after an alleged deal between the civilian government and the army to settle a row over a security issue went sour.
Now the federal government has ordered a large-scale crackdown against those allegedly posting anti-state content online, and maligning state’s institutions.
Although political activists are being checked on social media, extremists spreading their ideology through cyber space are hardly confronted. The lethal Islamic State, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JUA) and Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) are all running their recruitment campaigns on social media.
“Some two dozen people suspected of publishing hate materials are in our custody and it also includes eight activists of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N),” says a senior FIA official, continuing, “Social media activists who created fake online [Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc) accounts just to malign Pakistan, its institutions or to take revenge on other people or settle their political scores are to face tougher action through FIA prosecutors”.
Some ten million people are currently using social media sites in the country, he further adds.
The News on Sunday spoke to six FIA officials and all wished to remain anonymous.
Kamran Rehmat, a former newspaper editor and political analyst, thinks the whip is just an appeasement gimmick, but one that does Nawaz Sharif’s government no credit. “Sharif 3.0 is obviously desperate to complete his term any which way, even if that means one more compromise in its collection of embarrassments. This appears to be a calibrated move to appease the security establishment, which is smarting from the apparent loss of face in the tweet saga”.
“But for an elected government to hurt democracy like this is a betrayal of public trust and its bounden duty to protect all freedoms enshrined in the constitution. Driven by self-preservation, these actions are also hurting Pakistan’s image globally,” Rehmat adds.

The FIA investigators questioned eight workers of the PTI and PML-N, who were accused of posting hate material against the military. Four people were questioned by investigators who allegedly posted blasphemous content on social media. The investigation team also quizzed three offenders accused of maligning Chief Justice of Pakistan and Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of Islamabad High Court.
The FIA Islamabad office, with help from Pakistan Telecommunication Association (PTA) requested social networking sites to preserve data of approximately 1,000 social media accounts in past six months. Offenders who create fake profiles on Facebook and Twitter may face terrorism, anti-state and harassment charges. “The PTA also requested social media sites either to restrict or block around 400 accounts of Facebook and Twitter with around a dozen websites which were spreading unwanted content against the state,” adds FIA officials.
The FIA teams have received more than 11,053 complaints in the past 15 months, official data exclusively obtained by TNS revealed. Around 20,180 complaints were sent to FIA regional offices by citizens between 2011 and April 2017. Over 4,501 inquiries were ordered by FIA investigators regarding 20,180 complaints, and around 1,200 inquiries were filed in past 16 months. The data further revealed that some 879 cases were filed by the investigators against the offenders and that some 240 social media activists faced cases in the past 15 months.
Although political activists are being checked on social media, extremists spreading their ideology through cyber space are hardly confronted. The lethal Islamic State, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JUA) and Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) are all running their recruitment campaigns on social media. Noreen Leghari, a medical student, was the Islamic State’s latest catch which has previously allured hundreds of activists to join hands with their extremist group in Syria and Iraq.
The government did not block such sites, in fact activists of these banned outfits enjoy free space on these same social media sites. A key part of National Action Plan stated that the glorification of banned outfits and terrorists would be curbed but terrorists like Ehsanullah Ehsan who once served the TTP and then the JUA were given airtime by mainstream media. The PTA, Pemra and FIA have the capacity to block such sites but no serious action was taken against these hatemongers.
The Interior Minister remains in denial, as usual. His only focus is the social media users who are allegedly anti-army. “We’ll not tolerate those degrading our institutions on social media,” he told the media.
The crackdown on social media activists, critics say, was creating a climate of fear and promoting self-censorship among other social media users. This is contrary to democratic principles. “Free speech is beauty of democracy as both freedom of expression and democracy go hand-in-hand. The government is curbing peoples’ rights by targeting critics. It should start crackdown against extremists sites rather than threaten critics,” says PTI leader Jahangir Tareen.
He adds that his party’s activists are being picked up by FIA because the PML-N government wants to suppress their critics.
The FIA teams were receiving some 40 to 50 complaints daily and it has become difficult for investigators to address them quickly. There are talks about the activation of a new cyber terrorism wing under the new cyber crime laws.
“The agency faces a capacity problem since it cannot handle the rising number of complaints on a daily basis,” says Muhammad Amlish, Director General FIA. Although he did not discuss the current issue in detail, he did say, “We also want some amendments in newly passed laws such as the Protection of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016, in order to nip cyber crimes.”
Around 210 cases have been filed under PECA 2016 in different courts but till now only one case was decided by a local court last week. The local court awarded an 18-month imprisonment with fine of Rs200,000 to a man who created a fake Facebook account of a girl in Lahore. “The nature of cyber crime cases range from revenge pornography to blasphemous content,” says the FIA investigator.
But even as the government is catching a few real criminals, it is rapidly earning criticism for its crackdown. Nighat Dad of Digital Rights Foundation, an advocacy NGO focusing on digital governance, says: “The crackdown on social media activists is creating a climate of fear and promoting self-censorship among other social media users which is a contrary to the principles of democracy. Social media is a space for people, exercising their freedom of expression and access to opinion by sharing news, being critical to state actions etc.”
She further adds that the state needs to explain how they define criticism, defamation, hate speech and what laws they are using to crack down on social media activists.
Senator Farhatullah Babar says the government should not be allowed to wield power arbitrarily or whimsically. “The freedom of expression is increasingly attacked by both state and non-state actors on various pretexts. Silencing critics through FIA’s harassment must be stopped. This dangerous trend must be resisted by supporters of freedom of expression.”

#Saudi Wahhabi "puritanism'' - Pakistani Barbers told not to style Beards

A local council in the Pakistani province of Balochistan has banned ‘designer beards’
The ban was announced by the Municipal Committee in the town of Omara, which is the seaside suburb of Gwadar city and has a population of around 35,000. The local council announced the ban at a special meeting held on Friday to discuss a course of action for the upcoming Islamic holy month of Ramadhan.
During the council meeting, a local leader of an Islamic political party, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F) objected to the growing practice of cutting beards in different shapes and designs by local barber shops. JUI-F leader Molvi Muhammad Amin claimed that the practice of cutting beards in new designs and shapes was against Islamic Sharia (Law) and an act of Blasphemy which needs to be stopped.
Taking note of the objection raised by Amin, Chairman of the Council Amir Iqbal issued orders barring hair dresses from trimming beards into different styles. He urged officials to make sure that the hairdressers are in compliance with the new ruling by Monday.
Speaking to DAWN News of Pakistan, JUI-F leader Muhammad Amin confirmed he had raised the issue in the council meeting and said “In the meeting, Barbers were told that whoever wants to shave can get shave and whoever wants to keep a beard can keep a beard but they were told not to trim beards into different styles.” He also confirmed that he had told the council committee that trimming beards into these new styles was Blasphemy.